July 30, 2019
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -
About two dozen Mount Saint Mary College students recently wrapped up their projects for the college’s annual Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE), and studying among them were two special scholars from local high schools.
Arnaz Reza from Newburgh Free Academy and Gabriella Shikapwashya from Valhalla High School are participating in a multiyear research program, wherein they are isolating new bacteriophages. A bacteriophage, also known informally as a phage, is a virus that infects and replicates within bacteria.
Mount Saint Mary College’s Evan Merkhofer, assistant professor of Biology, and Suparna Bhalla, associate professor of Biology, oversaw the high schoolers. The young scholars also got some help from Mount SURE students Sabina Zarod of Poughquag, N.Y.; Eleanora Robinson of Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; and Chris McCurry of Newburgh, N.Y.
“I wanted to gain summer research experience, and I thought bacteriophages were a cool topic,” explained Reza.
Shikapwashya echoed her sentiment: “I wanted to come here to really experience research in a lab,” she said.
Next summer, Reza and Shikapwashya will return to the Mount to annotate the genome of the phages they discovered this summer.